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What is Local Government Spending?

In FY 2015, total local government spending was “guesstimated” to be $1.58 trillion. In FY 2012, the latest year reported by the Census Bureau, local government spending was $1.65 trillion.

Local Government Spending Analysis   also: Revenue Charts  Debt Charts  


This page shows the current trends in US local government spending. Also see charts on US spending history.

Recent US Local Government Spending

Chart S.01l: Recent Local Spending

Chart S.02l: Recent State Spending as Pct GDP

Local Government Spending was increasing modestly, year on year, in the mid 2000s. But it stopped increasing in the trough of the Great Recession in 2009. Since 2009 local spending has held steady at about $1.7 trillion a year. "Guesstimated" local spending through 2015 is expected to decline modestly.

Viewed from a GDP perspective, local government spending was steady at about 10 percent GDP in the mid 2000s and then jumped, in the Great Recession, to almost 11.5 percent GDP in 2009. But in the subsequent economic recovery local government spending has steadily declined as a percent of GDP down a little over 10 percent of GDP in 2012. Local Government spending is "guesstimated" to continue to decline through 2015.

US Local Government Spending Since 1900

Chart S.03l: Federal Spending

Local government began the 20th century as the largest sector of government, spending 4 percent of GDP. It continued this growth in the next three decades, reaching 8 percent of GDP in 1940. World War II cut a big hole in local government budgets and local spending did not exceed 8 percent of GDP again until the 1960s. Since the 1960s local government spending has steadily increased, reaching almost 11 percent of GDP in the 2010s.

Federal, State, Local Spending in 20th Century

Chart S.04t: Federal State and Local Spending
in 20th Century

At the start of the 20th century, government spending was principally local government spending. Out of a total of 7 percent of GDP, a full 4 percent was spent at the local level. Federal spending spiked in World War I, but in the 1920s, local government still represented about half of all government spending. In the 1930s this changed, and federal spending surged to about half of all government spending. After the spike of World War II the federal share increased again and state government spending also began to increase as a percent of GDP, so that by the 2010s federal spending checked in at over 20 percent of GDP, state spending amounted to 8 to 9 percent of GDP and local spending exceeded 10 percent of GDP.

State-by-State Comparison of State and Local Spending

Chart S.05c: State and Local Spending Comparison

The bubble chart shows total state and local spending for each state in dollars per capita compared against the Gross State Product (GSP) in dollars per capita. The chart shows that the overwhelming number of states show a correlation between state and local spending and GSP. Notable outliers are Texas, on the low spending side and New York, Vermont, and Alaska, on the high spending side.

Top Spending Requests:

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US BUDGET overview and pie chart.


See FEDERAL BUDGET breakdown and estimated vs. actual.

MILITARY SPENDING details, budget and history.


See BAR CHARTS of spending, debt.

See PIE CHARTS of total spending, federal spending.

Check STATE spending: CA NY TX FL and compare.


Take a COURSE at Spending 101.

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Spending Data Sources

Spending data is from official government sources.

Gross Domestic Product data comes from US Bureau of Economic Analysis and

Detailed table of spending data sources here.

Federal spending data begins in 1792.

State and local spending data begins in 1890.

State and local spending data for individual states begins in 1957.

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Next Data Update

> State Finances FY13

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2011_2020:

Sources for 2011:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

Sources for 2020:

GDP, GO: GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
'Guesstimated' by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

Federal Deficit and Outlay Actuals for FY15

On October 15, 2015, the US Treasury reported in its Monthly Treasury Statement (and xls) for September that the federal deficit for FY 2015 ending September 30 was $439 billion. Here are the numbers, including total receipts, total outlays, and deficit compared with the numbers projected in the FY 2016 federal budget published in February 2015:

Federal Finances
FY 2015 Outcomes
Receipts $3,176$3,249
Deficit$583$439 now shows the new numbers for total FY 2015 outlays and receipts on its Estimate vs. Actual page.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes ""Table 4: Receipts of the United States Government, September 2015 and Other Periods." This table of receipts by source is used for to post federal receipt actuals for FY 2015.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes "Table 9. Summary of Receipts by Source, and Outlays by Function of the U.S. Government, September 2015 and Other Periods".   This table of outlays by function makes it possible for to estimate actual outlays by "subfunction" for FY 2015 by factoring budgeted amounts by the difference between budgeted and actual "function" amounts where actual outlays by subfunction cannot be gleaned from the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Final detailed FY 2015 numbers will not appear until the FY 2017 federal budget is published in February 2016 with the actual outlays for FY 2015 in Historical Table 3.2--Outlays by Function and Subfunction.

Spend links

us numbersus budgetcustom chartdeficit/gdpspend/gdpdebt/gdpus gdpus real gdpstate gdpbreakdownfederalstatelocal200920102011californiatexas

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